Mandela Washington Fellowship

Mandela Washington Fellowship


The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

Young professionals in the audience listen to the speaker, with flags representing their countries behind them.

2014 Mandela Washington Fellows during the Summit with President Obama

“I have no doubt that you’re going to leave behind for the next generation – and the generation after that – an Africa that is strong and vibrant and prosperous, and is ascendant on the world stage.”
President Barack Obama at a Town Hall with Mandela Washington Fellows, July 2014

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. In 2016, the Fellowship will provide 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. higher education institution with support for professional development after they return home.

The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. In 2015, Fellows represented all 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fifty percent of Fellows were women; and for 76 percent of Fellows, it was their first experience spending substantial time in the United States.

U.S.-based activities

Academic and Leadership Institutes: Each Mandela Washington Fellow takes part in a six-week academic and leadership Institute at a U.S. university or college in one of three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. In 2016, there will be a pilot Institute on Energy.

Presidential Summit: Following the academic component of the Fellowship, the Fellows visit Washington, D.C., for a Presidential Summit featuring a town hall with President Obama. During the three-day event, Fellows take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Professional Development Experience: 100 selected Fellows remain in the United States to participate in a six-week professional development experience with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and governmental agencies that relate to their professional interests and goals.

Africa-based activities

Upon returning to their home countries, Fellows continue to build the skills they have developed during their time in the United States through support from U.S. embassies, four Regional Leadership Centers, the YALI Network, and customized programming from USAID and affiliated partners. Through these experiences, Mandela Washington Fellows have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and seed funding to support their ideas, businesses, and organizations.


The YALI Network provides you email updates and opportunities to collaborate with young leaders across Africa.